The Leadership Needle in the Haystack

How do we know when we’ve found a great leader? What differentiates the effective leader from the high performer, the effective manager, the superb executor? The great leader is the proverbial needle in the haystack. But when you know what sets them apart, they can be identified with confidence.

What defines a great leader? The answer is surprisingly simple: followers. There is great wisdom in that observation. Leaders engage in five consistent and specific behaviors that create followership, transformation and value:

  1. Leaders define a compelling vision: one that naturally pulls their team to follow them. A vision that fires passion in the heart, inspires the mind to break through boundaries, and motivates aligned action. Followers who can see the dream will follow their leader and give everything they’ve got to make it happen.
  2. Leaders know where they are. They have a deep and complete understanding of their current situation. They insist on knowing exactly where they are—because that’s the only way they can plot the course to where they are going.
  3. Leaders measure results. The great leader defines the results they are after with metrics that tell them if they are on track, use those metrics to course correct and put the pedal down when the course is straight and true.
  4. Leaders build trust with all of their stakeholders: workforce, customers, suppliers, investors and more. They build a balanced connection with all stakeholders and from that connection grows trust and loyalty. They put the needs of their stakeholders FIRST:before their own personal needs because they know that will generate the best results and the most value. It’s not about ME….it’s about WE.
  5. Great leaders are self- aware: They confidently own both their strengths and weaknesses without hesitation. Because great leaders are self-aware, they can use themselves like a tool, leveraging their strengths and purposefully hiring talent to complement their weaknesses.

It takes a well-tuned ear to find leaders who transform business performance and value. We listen for what is said-and for what isn’t said. We listen for what they care about, who they care about and what they ask about—and what they don’t.

We explore our candidates’ leadership histories and listen carefully to the details of exactly what the candidate did and why they did it. Did they define where they were going up front, before they started? Did they set defined results? Who helped them in their journey? How did they build that connection? Did they put their personal agenda first—or the needs of their business and stakeholders?

We look for a willingness to say, “I’m great at X” and “I’m not as effective at Y” and what they did to leverage those strengths and make sure their weaknesses were addressed by others. “I have a problem taking on too much” doesn’t count as a weakness! Without personal candor, no leader can be truly great: because they aren’t even leading themselves.

When you know exactly what you are looking for, great leaders sparkle like diamonds. We know where to mine them and when we’ve found a great one for our clients.

Courtesy of Jim Lynde

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